I go back, along the dimmed hall and up the muffled stairs, stealthily to my room. There I sit in the chair, with the lights off, in my red dress, hooked and buttoned. You can think clearly only with your clothes on.
What I need is perspective. The illusion of depth, created by a frame, the arrangement of shapes on a flat surface. Perspective is necessary. Otherwise there are only two dimensions. Otherwise you live with your face squashed against a wall, everything a huge foreground, of details, close-ups, hairs, the weave of the bedsheet, the molecules of the face. Your own skin like a map, a diagram of futility, crisscrossed with tiny roads that lead nowhere. Otherwise you live in the moment. Which is not where I want to be.
But that’s where I am, there’s no escaping it. Time’s a trap, I’m caught in it. I must forget about my secret name and all ways back. My name is Offred now, and here is where I live.
Live in the present, make the most of it, it’s all you’ve got.
I am thirty-three years old. I have brown hair, I stand five seven without shoes. I have trouble remembering what I used to look like. I have viable ovaries. I have one more chance.
But something has changed, now, tonight. Circumstances have altered.
I can ask for something. Possibly not much; but something.
Men are sex machines, said Aunt Lydia, and not much more. They only want one thing. You must learn to manipulate them, for your own good. Lead them around by the nose; that is a metaphor. It’s nature’s way. It’s God’s device. It’s the way things are.
Aunt Lydia did not actually say this, but it was implicit in everything she did say. It hovered over her head, like the golden mottoes over the saints, of the darker ages. Like them too, she was angular and without flesh.
But how to fit the Commander into this, as he exists in his study, with his word games and his desire, for what? To be played with, to be gently kissed, as if I meant it.
I know I need to take it seriously, this desire of his. It could be important, it could be a passport, it could be my downfall. I need to be earnest about it, I need to ponder it. But no matter what I do, sitting here in the dark, with the searchlights illuminating the oblong of my window, from outside, through the curtains gauzy as a bridal dress, as ectoplasm, one of my hands holding the other, rocking back and forth a little, no matter what I do there’s something hilarious about it.
He wanted me to play Scrabble with him, and kiss him as if I meant it.
This is one of the most bizarre things that’s happened to me, ever.